Proper nutrition during pregnancy, infancy and early childhood is vital to ensure growth, health and development of a child. Breastfeeding is known for its numerous benefits for the mother and the child. It provides superior nutrition for optimum growth, protects against infection and allergies and promotes bonding and development. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, and give complementary foods starting at 6 months while continuing breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond.
Complementary feeding is the process of giving an infant food in addition to breast milk. When the child turns 6 months of age, his or her nutrient needs increases, thus what is provided by breast milk alone is not sufficient that is why complementary foods are necessary to meet those needs. However, mothers, caregivers and family members must learn the proper way in giving complementary foods in order to ensure that the infant’s nutritional needs are met. Here are some tips for appropriate complementary feeding for your baby:
1. Start at 6 months with small amounts of food and increase gradually as the child gets older
WHO recommends that infants start receiving complementary foods at 6 months of age in addition to breast milk. Initially, infants should receive complementary foods 2-3 times a day between 6-8 months and increase to 3-4 times daily between 9-11 months and 12-24 months. Additional nutritious snacks should also be offered 1-2 times per day for ages 12-24 months, as desired.
2. Feed a variety of nutrient-rich foods
Example of nutrient-rich foods are vegetable puree, mashed vegetables, fish, meats, and porridge.
3. Practice good hygiene and proper food handling
Make sure that the food is hygienically stored and prepared. Feed the infant with clean hands using clean utensils and not bottles and teats. Wash the utensils properly. It is also advised that your baby has their own utensils.
4. Avoid foods in a form that may cause choking
Make sure the baby’s food is appropriate for them. Avoid giving hard and whole foods such as whole grapes or raw carrots. In addition, avoid giving drinks with low nutrient value, such as tea, coffee, and sugary soft drinks. Limit the amount of juice offered, to avoid displacing more nutrient-rich foods.
5. Feed slowly and patiently; encourage them to eat but do not force them; talk to the child and maintain eye contact
Feeding the baby is also a bonding moment between the infant and the mother. It is also important to communicate with your baby while feeding them such as maintaining eye contact, singing or humming a tune.
Appropriate and proper complementary feeding depends on accurate information. We don’t want our baby to suffer because of lack of knowledge on complementary feeding. The Breastfeeding Awareness Month this August aims to protect, promote, and support the practice of exclusive breastfeeding of infants from birth up to six months, and continued with complementary feeding onwards with breastfeeding being the most healthy, efficient, and environmentally-sustainable action of mothers for their children. With proper knowledge on exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding, a great future awaits healthier babies.
AA VI Cielo Katrina M. Mabalot
1. Importance of Exclusive Breastfeeding and Complementary Feeding among Infants from http://www.foodandnutritionjournal.org/volume2number2/importance-of-exclusive-breastfeeding-and-complementary-feeding-among-infants/
2. Complementary Feeding from https://www.who.int/health-topics/complementary-feeding#tab=tab_3
3. Guiding Principles for Appropriate Complementary Feeding from https://www.facebook.com/OfficialDOHgov/photos/complementary-feeding-motherbabymonthprovide-nutritionally-adequate-and-safe-com/914863438524909/